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Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #207 (#3316 - #3330)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #3316 – Practice Positive Thinking 

Having a positive outlook on workplace changes can greatly influence your ability to accept and adapt to them. To take on a positive outlook, consider the purpose of changes within your workplace and how they can positively influence your job role and work environment. By looking for potential benefits to changes within the workplace, you make it easier to accommodate them. 

Lean Tip #3317 – Ask Questions Frequently 

As you incorporate changes into your daily work routine, you need to ask as many questions as possible to those in charge of overseeing new procedures or activities. Asking even the simplest of questions can help you gain a better understanding of how to complete new tasks and help you learn more about why these changes are necessary.

Lean Tip #3318 – Help Your Coworkers Adapt to Changes

Once you start to understand new practices or routines, it's important that you assist your coworkers with adapting to the changes. This demonstrates teamwork, encourages positive relationships and ensures you can go to them for help when you need it as well.

Lean Tip #3319 – Celebrate the Old

All too often, old policies, programs, strategies, and work are dismissed out of hand as a new direction unfolds. For employees who worked hard on those items, this can be a major slap in the face, erode morale, and lead to more concern. During a period of change, leaders should recognize that such work happened, was important, and had meaning. Underappreciated employees will have a harder time embracing new initiatives.

Lean Tip #3320 – Find Key Influencers

Every organization has key players who have earned the respect of their coworkers, have longevity (and therefore perspective), and are influential. Getting key players on board and letting them act as a sounding board can help senior leaders better understand how change is being perceived, refer recurring issues, and become advocates for the change. Walking these influence-leaders through the change process and getting them on board can help with communication and confidence during the change period.

Lean Tip #3321 – Listen Carefully

Employees are going to have a lot of questions, ideas, feelings, and emotions. It is important for managers, from front-line supervisors to c-suite leaders, to openly and actively listen to these concerns, validate them, and address them as clearly and frankly as possible. Even if you are unable to address their concerns, it is important to express that the employee concerns have been heard and will be addressed at a later date.

Lean Tip #3322 – Articulate Challenges

All changes come with risk of the unknown, uncertainty, and other potential challenges. It is important that companies are upfront about the challenges that may be faced. Even if those challenges have not been fully identified and planned for, it is a good move to try and discuss the potential challenges, the range of those challenges, and what the company is doing or will do to address them.

Lean Tip #3323 – Defining the Change

Change is often not fully articulated at the beginning of a change management process. Due to the iterative nature of change, it may be necessary to not just define the change at the outset, but redefine the change at various steps along the way. Updates should be provided frequently to mitigate rumors, answer questions, and provide reassurance. The faster change is happening, or if it begins to accelerate, the more frequent updates should be.

Lean Tip #3324 – Make change Compelling and Exciting

Employees can better understand the rationale behind a change when organizations prioritize purposeful, clear and consistent communication. This targeted communication strategy provides the context to understand the why, what and so what of the change. Effective communication answers the most important question people are thinking: What does this mean to me; how will it impact my work? With a deeper, clearer understanding of the change, employees are much more likely to ask, “How can I help?”

The shift from rote compliance to true engagement and belief is powerful. Strong employee support deters change resistance that could hold the organization back.

Lean Tip #3325 – Don’t Ignore Resistance

Change resistance is poisonous to an organization’s transformation. Resistance is much easier to counter when it’s identified early. Leaders should pay attention to the signs of change resistance, including inaction, procrastination, withholding information and the spread of rumors. Communication is the key to identifying resistance. Create feedback loops with employees, like surveys, feedback channels and input sessions to proactively identify signs of resistance, then take fast action.

Lean Tip #3326 – Daily Management Board Belongs to The Team

As a manager, you may have a burning desire to create our own vision of an information center or visual management board in the middle of your factory or workplace. It is important to resist the temptation. However, the goal of visual management boards is for front line teams to understand operational performance and engage in improvement.

Therefore your role as a manager is to coach your teams to understand their performance and measure it themselves. This starts with a conversation about “what does a good day look like”? Ask the team how they measure performance. They may have simple indicators such as numbers of jobs completed or boxes packed, which make sense to them. 

A simple throughput measure like this is usually the start. You may only initially track one metric and then expand this to include metrics in safety and quality. Keep the number of metrics low – ideally three or four, but no more than six or eight.

The board also should not only be a collection of graphs but instead should show problem-solving activities aimed at improving the performance and list current issues that the team is working on. It is a communication board for the team, not just a place to record data on performance.

Lean Tip #3327 – Choose Effectiveness Over Good Looks

One of the greatest frustrations with implementing visual management boards is managers’ preoccupation with aesthetics – how the board looks. I strongly advocate for handwritten graphs and problem-solving strips because this shows that it is the team itself that is updating the data. Using the “green pen = on target, red pen = off-target” approach really communicates strongly to the team how they are going. The team leader has to pick up the red pen to record off-target performance. 

This is a very conscious act and makes the Team Leader and the team very aware of the problem performance area. It then inevitably prompts a problem-solving discussion about how to turn the red line into a green one. 

Lean Tip #3328 – Make Engagement a Priority Instead of Standardization

Another obsession of some managers is “standardizing” the appearance of the boards. Again the drive behind this is aesthetics rather than employee engagement. The boards are located in different work areas and managed by teams who perform different functions and therefore the boards should look different. They should reflect on the particular priorities and issues of each team. You can have some common themes such as requiring each team to record metrics for safety, quality, performance, and morale.

Lean Tip #3329 – Boards are for Conversation Not Wallpaper

If you think just putting information on a Visual Management Board on the wall will get people to engage, then you will be disappointed. I’ve seen many big immaculate visual displays sprawling across entrance halls and walkways with literally dozens of metrics displayed. Here is the bad news: no one looks at them. In many cases, the job of printing the graphs and posting them is delegated to an administrative staff member and not even the business leaders notice or read the graphs.

I call this type of visual management board “wallpaper” because that is the only function they serve. The boards need to be the focus of structured daily conversations about how the team is going, what are the barriers to improvement and how these barriers can be overcome. Therefore visual management boards go hand in hand with daily meetings.

Lean Tip #3330 – Focus on the Critical Few

Be sure to narrow your focus. Too many measures create clutter and detract from what is most important. Hopefully, your organization has developed True North metrics and your team has specific measures to impact these targets. Items you put into your visual management should be the things you are actively working on and talking about. If this isn’t the case, then you don’t have visual management, you just have wallpaper.

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